Environment Column

Cues from SUNY-ESF could lead SU to thorough sustainability

/ The Daily Orange

Let’s not kid ourselves: sustainable practices are not alluring. For many, it’s a chore. But Syracuse University has the power to change that. Its neighbor, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, has an excellent track record when it comes to student and faculty engagement that SU could follow.

SUNY-ESF received national praise for its campus-wide sustainability efforts with a Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System Gold Rating in September. The school was also ranked 2nd on Sierra Magazine’s 2016 “Cool School” list.

Since this is an area that SUNY-ESF clearly thrives in, SU should use its ties with the college to create a more sustainable campus. The biggest way SU could spark an environmental consciousness in its students on a day-to-day basis is by tackling the most prominent problem: reducing waste.

All too often, students may disregard the negative impacts of throwing away recyclables or putting non-recyclables in a recycling bin. And as far as composting at SU goes, Syracuse University Food Services “collects fruit and vegetable matter discarded during food preparation” in all major units daily, according to its website.

On the other hand, SUNY-ESF received a high rating for its Sustainable Dining program, where students were the driving force behind the school’s pre- and post-consumer composting program. Notably, SUNY-ESF students were the ones that took charge and founded the Syracuse chapter of the Food Recovery Network.

But the work didn’t stop there. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that about 96 percent of food that could be composted ends up in landfills or incinerators. SUNY-ESF has campus-wide systems in place for pre-consumer food waste, like kitchen scraps, as well as post-consumer food waste — any food left on your plate, banana peels, napkins and so on.

SU does collect pre-consumer and post-consumer waste from dining halls and has green buckets available throughout campus for collecting compost. SU can learn from SUNY-ESF’s example by expanding its system to the rest of campus. If composting bins were placed throughout Main Campus buildings, in residence halls and on South Campus, SU could divert even more organic waste from ending up in landfills with proper student education.

esf_delaney-kuric_head-illustrator
Delaney Kuric | Head Illustrator

It’s the little things that add up, and all it takes is a genuine interest in protecting the environment mixed with school pride. The consistent encouragement that students, staff, faculty and administrators develop a culture of sustainability beyond the classroom is what makes SUNY-ESF so remarkable.

While SU has an active sustainability department and clubs like Students of Sustainability at SU, you won’t necessarily know about them unless you are a part of them or are actively seeking membership.  As a school, SUNY-ESF is known for its “singular focus on environmental discovery, learning, and sustainability.” Agreeing to use STARS shows that SUNY-ESF is truly passionate about creating more environmentally-conscious curriculums and programs that extend to student life.

Decision-makers on campus need to know that students are passionate about sustainable practices, and willing to use any new sustainable systems in place. But they must also be educated about them. Sustainability divisions on campuses have become the expected norm, but students cannot assume that because it is there, the campus will automatically initiate sustainable practices.

Victoria Chen is a senior international relations major, and an environment and society minor. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at vlchen@syr.edu.

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